A northwest Indiana judge has cleared the way for a man serving three life sentences on rape and kidnapping convictions to be freed after nearly four decades in prison.
Lake County Criminal Judge Salvador Vasquez on Friday changed 59-year-old Clifton Boone Jr.'s sentence from three life sentences plus 20 years to 45 years and three years of probation.
Boone is now expected to be released from prison within a few days, The (Munster) Times reported.
In August 1975, Boone was 19 when he kidnapped three women in Gary and raped one of them. A jury convicted him in 1976 of rape and three counts of kidnapping.
Vasquez said during Friday's hearing that his decision to modify Boone's sentence came down to the question of whether Boone has been punished enough.
The judge said that was difficult to answer because one of the victims wrote a letter against the modification, and mentioned that she was never able to have children.
But Vasquez said he determined that Boone's life sentences were unjust and noted that Indiana's sentencing guidelines for kidnappings have changed significantly since Boone was sentenced.
"A life term for a non-death is a miscarriage of justice," Vasquez said before imposing the new sentence under a rare sentence modification agreement with prosecutors.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he never doubted Boone was rightfully convicted, but he did wonder if the sentence was excessive.
Boone had sought clemency from governors throughout the years but was repeatedly denied even though the late Lake County judge who sentenced him, James Clement, eventually became Boone's strongest advocate in his battle for a sentence modification.
Clement told The Times in 1998, that he had seen many cases over the years involving people "who committed more heinous crimes and who are out today."
Boone told Vasquez he had written letters apologizing to the victims years ago, but wasn't sure if they ever received them. He said he came from a good family but committed the crime during a period when he was trying to be a bad teenager.
"That 19-year-old kid has been gone for a long time," Boone said.
His mother, Myrtis Boone, told the judge if her son is released he could immediately begin working at the family's Lake County lawn care business.